Updated: May 20, 2020
None of the codependency identities (Victim, Savior, and Tyrant ) objectively exist. It is all made up in a child’s world to release responsibility for unbearable pain.
Guilt is a defense mechanism of the young naive mind to interpret the recurring situations in early age.
A young, naive mind that is being repeatedly punished does not understand why this is happening and looks for explanations.
In a perfect world, a child understands the insecurities and imperfections of its parents and it would love them through all the pain and emotional rejections — it would love them unconditionally.
In the real world, that is humanly impossible.
Therefore, the child, unable to see the flaw in its own logic, accepts the guilt and punishment as “normal”. To relieve its powerlessness, it gives up on responsibility for the pain and takes on the identity of a victim of its environment and circumstances.
The victim stance is a powerful one because of its seeming benefits — the victim is always morally right, neither responsible nor accountable and forever entitled to sympathy.
However, the benefits are heavily outweighed by the downsides — it feels oppressed, ashamed, hopeless, misunderstood and powerless in the world.
No one in their right mind would give up all this power voluntarily and therefore the mind creates another identity to keep its sanity: the Tyrant (persecutor). “It is all because of [the tyrant].” The tyrant is ultimately responsible for all the pain that the victim suffers. This can be anyone from family, teachers, men, women, society, government to the most subtle one — the God.
I do not use God to prove a religious point, but to personalize that which is unchangeable, unquestionable — the Universal Nature of Things, etc. — often effectively used by victims to justify their stance and refuse taking responsibility.
For a victim to keep hope for a better life, it creates the third identity: the Savior (Rescuer). There must be someone “good enough” who will validate all the victim’s pain, hopelessness, and victimhood, who will take care of them and ensure their happiness.
Long story short: 1. A child gets punished for something it does not understand. 2. Repeated punishment becomes an unchangeable standard. 3. The child identifies itself as a victim to deal with the pain by giving up responsibility. 4. It creates the Tyrant (Persecutor) and a Savior (Rescuer) to distribute the responsibility and keep the balance.
However, this only created a new problem:
Tyrant and Savior are clearly distinguished good/evil characters. Every child wants to be the good one and does not want to be the evil one. What immediately emerges is a fear of being a Tyrant and a want to be the Savior.
It will fear hurting others so much that it will be suppressing its own personality, so no one is harmed and it will be easy to blame.
It will try to save others — even if they do not ask for it.
And it will be a victim itself: always identifying a Tyrant and a Savior in the outer world.
It will be stuck in an endless loop of hurting others — saving others — and suffering caused by others. It becomes Victim, Tyrant, and Savior all in one person, alternating between them.
As a victim — you cannot have the upsides of giving up responsibility without having the downsides.
None of the identities objectively exist in the real world. It is all made up in the head of the victim as a result of the responsibility transfer.
There is an incredible complexity of the behaviors that can emerge as an interaction between Victim, Savior, and Tyrant. For more information about these dynamics, read The Game Free Life by Stephen Karpman or Games People Play by Eric Berne.
If you do not want to study the complexity of the effect you can solve the problem at its root cause — which is releasing guilt. Letting go of guilt, dissolving the punishment based model of the world and taking back your responsibility is the fastest way to freedom.
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This article is part of the Guilt series.
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